"Buddha was the perfect example for the path of action of Karma Yoga in Bhagavad Gita because he never expected a reward for his action"
- Swami Vivekananda
Some Western critics claimed that there had never been a soul of philosophy in our tyrannical and ancient Asia. As a matter of fact, Immanuel Kant deeply admired Confucius as Chinese Socrates. Asia in its superficial outlook is likely to be rendered as uncannily simple with religious fanatism. A closer examination of religions of Asia would reveal an utterly different reality from its fanatic profile. In fact, all those gospels of Asia, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, are loose philosophies. I hardly believed that these Asia guiding stars of ancient wisdom are able to be ever qualified for the Western Abrahamic standards of a religion that insists the end of humanity is inevitably decided by Salvation of the God.
By saying loose philosophies, what I intend to mean is the original nature of all these sorts of ancient wisdom of Asia is open-ended. Those old Asians, loose philosophers, all seemed to hate the blind ends of humanity. They all advocated that humanity has great hope and incredible chances if one comes to get a sense of his own duty to move forward. During our study in the medical school, a surgeon taught us in a way for easy remembrance on endemicity of appendicitis and its anatomical vulnerability to infection. She said what God didn't want is the immortality of human beings so he attached an undesirable, non-functional organ with a blind end to intestines in our body. This blind end, unnecessary and useless, called the appendix, when distended with indigestible food residues becomes inflamed and finally ruptured to release infected bacteria to cause the whole abdomen infection called peritonitis. Peritonitis will kill a person within hours. God seems to want small blind ends in us.What seems to me is a blind end might look small, but when it outbursts, it is irresverible and fatal to a man. How many outbreaks of conflicts, violences and wars have happened among our fellow human beings by our blind ends to gods likewise.God himself is the greatest blind end of humanity. For this purpose of God as our unavoidable ultimate end, faith seems to be the only resort for our sinful humans in God's religions.
Our old Asian men, Confucius, Mahavira, Buddha and brilliant masters of Upanishads didn't think in this way. They all had the same message to us no matter they rose up in different times or places and never had a chance to meet one another. The consistent message to humanity from those old hoary men of Asia wisdom was Satyagraha that means the spirit of truth. The old men demanded us the bondage to the spirit of truth as our own inevitable duty rather than blind faith in the God. All humans are equally awarded with this greatest human honor that is the sense of duty as our ongoing struggle in a truthful way for progress of humanity: searching yourself stressed in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism; serving the relevant others stressed in Confucianism.
Those hoary men didn't also ignore the fact that the search for truth is feasible and equally possible to us only when we are not hindered by oppressive disturbances arisen from our malicious brutal tendencies. Liberty and liberation, not only for me but also for you and all others as well: the old ancient wisdom set a standardized principle called Ahimsa, non-violence. That is what Western thinkers may not recognize as a practical reason, for it is very hard to be believed that violence can be overthrown by a strong will, non-violence of unwavering resistance. The West built up a system called democracy that can easily overthrow a government when a government becomes an evil and brutal. The West seemed to realize the weakness of the powerless, is full of suspicion on tendencies toward exploitation, oppression, and brutal salvages of the ruling class people, who are often called tyrants. Westerners, the young were serious about the propensity of the corruption of their rulers, and the incapability of the bottom to remedy it, whereas the old, the Easterners, spiritually wholesome, generous and selfless, men firm like mountains and their spirits streaming like flowing rivers, seemed never be suspicious about the capability of the strong will of an individual in wending his way for his own liberation progress.
It is a big regret that Buddhism, one of the most open philosophies of Asia ancient wisdom, has become a dogma in Burma and some other societies under the disguise of Theravadas that claims to hold the pure teachings of Buddha. Theravada Buddhism in Burma, most probably everywhere else in any Theravada society, is often exploited as a very effective tool to be used by the class of the dominant for justification of their rule over the oppressed. Dogmas are very important for hampering the progress of humanity as they block the curious and free minds of humans in all possible ways and let them rationalize their miserable livings.
Colley Cibber wrote a poem about a blind boy who had never seen light since his birth. The poet concluded his poem by the blind boy's final resort of living, which is the inner liberty of the boy: Thus while I sing, I am a king. At least, the blind boy has his human liberty to claim himself as a king in his imagination. Nonetheless, we need to notice that even though we could somewhat be pleased about the boy to enjoy himself as a king in his thought paradise, nothing in reality has yet changed, as he is still a very poor blind boy. A tyrant is happy to know if a blind boy thinks he is a king whenever he sings. For a tyrant, his main concern is not to let a blind boy to know the ways to become a real king. What a tyrant wants the people is to live like a frog who just knows his own small sky over his narrow well as the greatest kingdom, not to get this damned frog out of his platonic cave. The frog will know how big and how incomparable in size are the sky, once he can get out of his well. This is a good change for the frog. To the tyrant, it is so sour. The closer the frog to the knowledge of reality, the tyrant becomes weaker to vindicate the need of his existence to rule a frog or a blind boy. The case of tyranny of Burma has its main pillar, the information asymmetry of the dominant class against the ruled class. Of course, the rule of the game is only the informed will win.
For the contemporary Chinese authoritarian system, as the ruling communist party had already tried to shatter the traditional Confucian system in the past, their choice of popularizing a dogma is not an ethical system but developing nationalism by arousing hatred against Japanese. I am not sure whether this strategy might be successful or not. It could be very unlikely to retain the tyranny of China in this way. First, masses of Chinese are mainly economic men rather than to be patriotic. Second, the government itself is just authoritarian. Not at all, they are the totalitarian system like Burma or North Korea. Being just authoritarian, the Chinese government has opened up doors of their country; the young Chinese generations who have closer and intimate contacts with the liberty of Western democracy and who come to understand the importance of the rule of law, have many big odds to change their country as a more or less democratic system in the future.
Burmese are sub-Indian in their culture. Like their fellow Indians, they are friendly to everybody else. They love Japanese and think that the Japanese are a very polite race. They love English as English drove out the incompetent, unpopular last king of Burma and introduced Burmese with modern systems. U Thant wrote in View from the UN, perhaps, by seeing that his socialist country was being driven to a state of pariahs to desperation: the British should not have left us earlier. Even if England was our stepfather, he was responsible for leaving us without adequately providing enough help for a country poorly equipped with competent human resources and administrative systems. It will be quite meaningless of those smart tyrants to arouse hatred against Japanese and English in the minds of these happy and not serious Burmese people. The only hope for the military rulers is to do something with Thais. But it is still not adequate enough. How's about the Muslim population who are so powerless in this Buddhist country? Or Chinese and Indian migrants who are competing and winning lazy native Burmans in economy? Historian Thant Myint Oo said in his The River of Lost footsteps: Ne Win, the first modern military ruler of Burma in his younger days was defeated in his running business among the migrant Indians. His bitter towards Indians made him drive out Indians from Burma when he became the supreme ruler. Notwithstanding, there were two brutal killing events of Chinese in Chinese-Burmese conflicts during his reign. He himself was Chinese-blooded and Chinese seemed not to be his bitter enemies. Without the cooperation of the government, such native-migrant conflicts were unlikely to outburst into very dangerous situations. In one of my comments in one Burmese blog, I explained that even in 1988, the top outburst was intentionally created strategically by the military government. The military controlled all the tempos of mass movements and created the timings of rancor to their highly desired odds. Beautiful statistical regressions of political scientists significantly proved that. If we ever think that a tyrant may just know for his existence and nothing else, we undermined the real situation. Of course, a tyrant may know only for his existence or he is merely protecting his existence. But he has to be sophisticated enough, wicked enough, violent enough, and smart enough for sustaining his existence. Most of all, he is a tyrant. He has the wealth and power to do all kinds of wicked sophistication. He needs to be sophisticated utmost as he definitely knows that he is a tyrant hated by everybody. In Burmese's case, the tyrants are lucky. The luckiest blessing for those tyrants' longevity is the dogma of Burmese under the guise of Theravadism.
Since the military rulers of Pagan, Buddhism has been thoroughly used as the support for the legitimacy of the rulers. It has been consistently exploited as a propaganda machine of the ruling tyrants. As in other countries, migration of Buddhism into this land has integrated itself with our cultural system full of taboos. We need to acknowledge about the fact that our understanding of Buddha's teaching is more or less intermixed with many of our cultural concepts however much we claim to be pure Buddhism. We are more or less biased in our interpretation and understanding of Buddhism as happened in many societies influenced by Buddhism. This is not a problem. We can learn to improve ourselves for the real Buddhism knowledge, if we are aware of our falsifiability of our current understanding and knowledge. The problem is started when there is dogma and arrogance; that is exactly what the tyrant wants a blind boy to breed. This is the hermetic Burmese social system where dogmas can most enjoy, a great situation and safe haven for tyrants, completely imperturbable against their power. The problem also lies in the original philosophy of Theravadism that will not accept any criticism and discussions for improvement. In the beginning, the founders of theravadists might have had a very good heart for their respect to Buddha's original teaching, but this may not be what Buddha wants. As mentioned earlier, Buddhism is a loose and open-ended philosophy. Actually, theravadists have stubbornly undermined what Buddha had instructed them, "to plug out some regulations on monks when the circumstances in the future lead you monks to infeasible practices". The meaning of Theravadism itself is not following the instruction of Buddha's final word. Theravada means the teaching of the Elders. Accordingly, theravadists need to follow the instruction of the Elders. This is also a violation against Buddha's final instruction. The final instruction of Buddha has two sentences, perhaps the most flashily illuminated words to humanity: "The monastic institution should be led by Dharma as the Teacher instead of me, Buddha (as I will no longer persist). Be always mindful about doing the good things". It is clear to us that Buddha had rejected any personal authority over the guidance of his Buddhism peace corps. The leader is the moral force, Dharma, the love of truth, the sense of duty that is not to be negligent but to assert good things into action. Absolutely, this is Satyragraha, to be strong enough to bring out good things with non-violence for sake of truth. Certainly, not for the sake of elders or serving originality.
These are a few prominent biases in our knowledge in understanding of Burmese Buddhism. Theravadism is grateful enough to me personally for retaining those original instructions of Buddha that I cited in this article. In my reasoning and preference, those teachings seem to be very original, right and fair to humanity as it is supposed to come from a really enlightened sage. The criticism of mine on Theravadism happens not because their brilliant work in maintaining the integrity of Buddha's teaching is not correct, but because as they are rather not following the original instruction and teaching of Buddhism, or perhaps they just learn the teachings by heart and haven't analyzed the matter carefully. Theravadists have very brilliant and asserted work in love of Buddha and Buddhism. But love itself is the problem and love is also the cause of dogma as said by Buddha in the principle of dependent origination, attachment (love) becomes dogma (Upadana). Regrettably, as critical thinking is lacking in our air-tight system, there are very few chances for our Burmese to get on the way of real progress of true knowledge of the original Buddhism during these a thousand historical years. Dogmas that are sticky with egoistic identifications have the triumph over reason in this land. One of the singing slogans of the Burmese military is "Patriotic, Buddhist, nationalistic, Burmese soldier". I couldn't find out what is nobler of that killer by being entitled as a Buddhist or Burmese. A killer is a killer. If a killer is from Buddhism, Buddhism is a shame. If a killer is from Burmese, Burmese is a shame. If a drug that can reverse all cancer cells to normal cells is invented by a muhammadan, it is a great honor to Islam. The would-be-Buddha in one of his early fulfilling periods had already recognized such self-arrogant wrong thinking. He was an old instructor at that time and people admired him. He wanted to test whether the reason of people's admiration on him was because of respect to his highly-esteemed designation or admiration of his moral integrity. He visited one acquainted household. He was warmly greeted and it was a joy of the household members to receive this very highly-reputed, honorable guest. In his return, he got some food from the household without getting the consent. He repeated this action three days to verify whether his great designation will offset the unfair act of his. The first two days, the households tolerated, so self-control seems to be not as much important as a person's status. On the third day, the household members surrounded and beat him. The would-be-Buddha was a great researcher for evidence-based truth, even risking his life for the verification of an important concept of Dharma. It is important to be noticed that whenever we think and say the superiority of a Burmese Buddhist over a Muslim or an Indian or an African, we are ignoring this impressive research work of Buddha and his verified result. The information for truth is there, affirmed by Buddha. For its sake of the love for dogma of "Burmese Buddhists" make our Burmese neglect and forget those warnings of ancient wisdom in many ways. The dogma and arrogance is the way of the losers. Still, we are the losers under the military boots.
Of course, it is important to remind us that Buddha finds truth not for the exclusive sake of theravadists of Burma, but his purpose is to serve equal for all universal beings, at least for his relatives, at least who are Indians that Buddha had intended them to become completely equal.We are just a 50 million population. Other and also very few Theravada countries are also as small countries as we are. If we claim that understanding of real truth exists only in our Theravada, it directly means that Buddha has served the best for Theravadists only. Dismally, in this pattern of our selfish thinking, his enlightenment is not for the benefits of other non-Theravadists. Buddha is the first equalitarian ever known by human history as a really existent personality. It is completely illogical to believe that this great equalitarian sage had exclusively served us and hadn't bothered about other non-theravadists.
In terms of Buddhism and truth only in Theravada, the purpose of Buddha comes to be deemed just for founding monastic institutions in Burma, Cambodia, Laos,Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, a very tiny population among the human Ocean of India, China or America. It should not be so. He lived only for eighty years as there was no purpose for him to enforce the monastic orders or his teachings. His existential solution to humanity is Bhkati and Prajna, that are the key elements of self-realization and self-liberation, not from the salvation of any God. He was not the decisive authority for the Karma or transcendental knowledge of creatures. Dharma is the guiding force and teacher as he trusted and delegated.
"Come and see by yourself", that is an intrinsic Buddha's teaching. Buddha believed that self-determination and capacity-building approaches will work much better and sustainable than his universal charity. He no longer needed to preach as he had already shown the people the rightful way of living. Of course, Buddha has never founded Buddhism, as Buddhism is not a religion but just a way of rightful thinking and peaceful living.
Buddha once said to a renegade from a nihilist to Buddhism on his request of apostasy, "Please review carefully about your decision. You should not be in haste to do such kind of conversion". Buddha also set a provisional period of four months for this convert to observe and test the practices of Buddhism. Only from getting the renegade's affirmation after four months of serious observation and tests, Buddha admitted the nihilist into his sect of church. Another remarkable story was Buddha's generosity for the liberty of other religions. After his critical discussion with Buddha on the topic of what really matters, result or intention, the right hand person of Mahavira (Human god of Jainists), called Upali converted into an adherent Buddhist from a Jainist. Accordingly, he deprived naked Jainists of his charity. Buddha called him and urged him to continue donating the Jain monks, that he willingly followed. This was Buddha's equalitarian principle of non-discrimination toward any religious practitioner. These are two examples how Buddha tolerate and even help the liberty of different thoughts. One prominent saying from Buddha was "wisdom comes from ignorance". If wisdom is progressive in nature, we need to acknowledge that all wisdom kinds are steps of ignorance.
Jainists were one of the vigorous reformers of Hinduism and they attempted seriously to overthrow the animal sacrifices of Hindu ritualism at least five hundred years before Buddha had ever risen up. In their enlightenment, they saw amoeba in water, that they identified as microorganisms who were able to respond to touch (pseudopodia formation) and regarded them as living organisms and avoided water and rather die for thirst for their adherence to the principle of not killing any living being. Hindu devouts today saw both Mahavira and Buddha as human saints for reforming Hinduism, and there is no problem to follow their principles and pay homage to their temples. Hinduism itself is just a set of questions about existential life and the knowledge of truth. Everybody can come and try to understand these spiritual matters and share with others. Nobody is the ultimate authority of their countless number of Upanishads; for all are different approaches to understand the reality of God and either reformation or reminding old good ways are needed when people become extremely ignorant.and morally corrupted.
I want to present an important nuance in our confusion of language. I think this is a crucially important logic for tolerance of our narrow-minded Theravada society to universal religions and brilliant systems of human civilizations. If this logic can illuminate souls of Burma to self-criticism and further inquisitiveness we have one step closer to becoming an open society. One step closer to the open society means, one step closer to the higher odds of driving away the military dictatorship that exclusively has exploited those weaknesses of our system. In constructing this logical nuance, first I want to elaborate some fundamental happenings in the thinking and practice of our Theravadism.
The questionability of Burmese Theravadists , perhaps also Mahayanists in understanding truth is to identify truth with Buddha. More badly, it is to identify non-truths with non-Buddhists. In a nutshell, the presumption of a Buddhist is more likely that a Buddhist who is devoted to Buddha is able to find truth and a non-Buddhist who devotes wrongly to the wrong one (God) is able not. If we inspect this matter closer, as I have explained earlier in the previous episode, either Buddha or Krishna is only living in our fancied imagination and seems not that actually close to real Buddha or real Lord Krishna of actual living beings. Actually, as a fallible human person, out of fear and having a tendency to have refuge in someone, we are tended to create Buddha with supreme human qualities with our own understandings. So we should be suggested that at least we should be aware of a difference from the actual reality even if this devotion to Buddha will make us calm and peaceful. I am neither urging nor saying that such kind of practice of envisioning Buddha or Buddha's qualities should be abandoned. Of course, those practices will make us feel and receive some vigor and energy of Buddha and will probably contribute some progress in our spirituality if we can be humble enough at our current point. All I am urging here is to be aware of our incompleteness of understanding of Buddha, and not to identify our own Buddha with the supreme truth or superior truth.
Another problem is about understanding the truth. Truth means universality, generalizability and of course, accessibility, realizability by anybody. If some truth is not accessible by a human being, this is not truth because it is not equally fair to everybody. It is just a hyper-secret of a sect or merely a pariah. On the other hand, we also need to be convinced that there are many agreeable truths. Even though it may not be taken significantly, truth should be agreeable to someone else rather than keeping on our own and trying to legitimize by self-verification. I am not meaning here that some brilliant and wonderful insights by the first person's experiences should not be defined as truths. Nor I am advocating moral relativism that is a very dangerous concept to humanity in affirming that everybody's any action can be defined as right in their own way. In fact, one of the misinterpretations of Karma as good will is one of the most overwhelming factors in Buddhism. In practice, this authorization of good will over any action is misleading to moral relativism and legitimization of atrocious conducts of the rulers until nowadays of Burma.
Purifying Buddhism, serving for the greatest good for the greatest number of people, or fighting a fair war, all these different clichés are frequently used by the reigning military to pretend that they have a just cause together with the people. In reality, those military hypocrites are delivering illusions to the people. Before considering purification of Buddhism, we need to self-criticize whether we have already explored and known definitely of what is pure Buddhism. I believe nobody is able to claim this because if you know pure Buddhism, you are already pure like a Buddha so that you are already a Buddha.
The legitimacy of the greatest good for the greatest number of people is an endemic and chronic disease in our Burmese traditional thinking. This sort of utilitarian justice is giving rise to unfair instrumentalism of the groups over the individual. The individual is a means for a group to their end. With this motto, the Burmese government enforced medical graduates into life-long slavery of the public hospitals. For the whole benefit of the society, enslavement of a few people seems very fair to the military, so might be the public. However, the doctors, possibly the best brains in Burma, are becoming to be just used as the instruments for achieving the ends of the military and the public. We are not meaning that we don't want to serve the benefits of the public. However, the demand of our services is not from the needs of the peple but from the obscenity of the military rulers. In pyschological terms such obscenity of the military tryants is called I-it relationship. In any mutual relationship, nobody wants to be treated as it. This is one of the examples of immature tradition of Burmese society in its adherence to utilitarian justice . What Burmese are still not cautious about the danger of this tradition is that everybody can become just an it any time. In many circumstances, untouchable its are even not cared or to be used, and just needed to be thrown away. When Thailand police drove the Rohinga muslims into the sea like animals, there were very few Burmese who sympathized with them. Some Buddhist dogmatists said that those muslims should be treated in this way; for they are stupid, harmful, despicable and obstacles to the progress of Buddhism. They are willing the pure Buddhism without any disturbance from Muslims' nuisance. The Muslims want to degrade Buddhism and will degrade Buddhism. I would like to ask those people whether Buddha has ever told us that people from a different religion should be thrown away into the sea. Did Buddha ever say to us that the stupid people should be thrown away into the sea? Did Buddha ever say to us that people who can be an obstacle to Buddhism should be treated like animals? Burmese Buddhist fundamentalists have very strong tendency to treat any Muslim in I-it relationships. When the military deprive the muslims of any human dignity in North Western Burma, Burmans simply think that is right. For many dogmatic Buddhists, all muslims are useless its. What they don't notice for themselves is in facing utilitarian justice of the military is anybody can become its at one time as shown in the example of the most intellectual class of medical doctors. Every day, we can see that people have to march in the scorching sun to hail the slogans of the military. Even a cow may have a chance to graze under a shady tree of its choice. Even a cow may speak a language of his complaint. Those masses of the people, who couldn't choose to graze; instead they need to stand and breathe hard like a mad dog in the sun; they couldn't complaint like a cow, all they need to do or die is to grumble salvage animal words of the military: Crush those (Aung San Su Kyi's men) into complete destruction. I want my Burmese fellows to repetitively notice that in this society of brutal tyrants, everybody can be its at any time. The military already has blatantly claimed for his legitimacy of treating anybody as it in their constitution. In the military men's eyes, its or animals are not worthy of any liberty but they are just instruments of higher humans, Buddhist sakya patriotic fighers. Its and animals don't know the duty. So they are worthy to be treated as the instruments of the highly responsible men who know the duty. That is the main concept of the Constitution of those evils who are dancing with ghost shadows of moral relativism in their hell paradise. My request to the Burmese bottom is if we are real followers of Buddha, please bear in mind not to treat anybody in a way that we don't like to be treated.
Fighting a fair war is also an agreeable truth to Burmese since the struggles of independence. I want to request our fellows to think carefully about this. Is there a war existent in history that is regarded as by any means fair? The war means injustice. We may say a revolutionary war or crushing the bad. But intrinsically such war is just a revenge on injustice by infringing injustice ourselves. Our critical reasoning for humanity should guide us that no war is fair. The justification of an action by just pointing out the good will for a good cause is cheating, as the good will itself can't be good enough to be eligible. In no way, a good cause is entitled to overrule the arbitrary and atrocious methods. Justification of any action for a good cause is meaningless. If we want to eliminate HIV/AIDS from this world, just to kill everybody who is the HIV positive. Of course, we just need to kill 40 million population (2006 UNAIDS statistics, I don't know the current figure) , so that six billion people can enjoy an HIV free world. Can such kind of good cause justify this action? Those kinds of arbitrary violence thought by either dissidents or the military people are mostly based on moral relativism. Moral relativism that is tried to be justified by pointing out good will and good cause is very irrational and very dangerous to humanity.
It doesn't mean that good will not exists and good will can't legitimize a good action. The knack is to understand clearly what the characters of a good will are rather than implicating its usage in the justification of our moral relativists' acts, like saying "a fair war" that is a shameful lie in any instance. The circumstances might bind us to do the war inevitably but we can't claim that Burmese can do a fair war. This is a very sinful violation of truth.
A really good will is with a wise sense of renunciation, denying any sort of instrumentality in earning one's privilege, and steadfastly avoids any form of violence. If devotion to Buddha and Krishna is regarded as instrumental to one's liberation, this is bribery for a privilege. Absolutely, this is not fair, equal and universal. This is not truth and this is not Dharma because Dharma is supposed to be fair, equal and universal.
(To be continued.)
Embracing imperfections by Tallis Grayson